The Peyton Manning era in Denver is alive and well. The Tim Tebow era is all but a distant memory, and Manning is quickly asserting himself as a quarterback that could bring the Broncos back to the Super Bowl. After a comfortable victory over the Steelers, 31-19, it is easy to see why people are already declaring the Broncos as a big threat to go to the Super Bowl. If Manning can stay healthy there is definitely a chance, the offense is immediately catapulted into elite an elite status with Manning on board. A lot will depend on how well the defense holds up. The Falcons didn’t have much trouble with their week 1 opponent either, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the road without much trouble, 40-24. The Falcons are an excellent team playing in the dome where Matt Ryan is virtually unbeatable, but this new look Broncos roster provides a serious threat to the Falcons home dominance.
Peyton Manning looked like vintage Manning, carving up a defense that was ranked 1st in points allowed in a season ago. Unlike in week 2, the Steelers had Polamalu playing last week, so it wasn’t a completely depleted defense that made Mark Sanchez look inept on Sunday afternoon. Manning did what he did best, completing short passes, the deep ball, and making precise changes at the line like we were used to seeing in Indianapolis. After failing to score any points in the first quarter, or move the ball effectively, Manning still managed to finish with 253 yards and 2 TDs. More importantly, though, is the fact that he didn’t force anything or make any mistakes against an excellent defense. He took what the defense gave him and made plays under pressure late to seal the victory.
The Broncos have always had a pretty good receiving unit, but have failed to have that above average quarterback in recent years. Now with Manning in the fold, it improves everyone around him. Demaryius Thomas was drafted in 2010 in the first round in hopes of becoming a legitimate number 1 target. After a 110 yard, 1 TD performance in week 1, I think this guy is in for a special year. He has tons of talent, but hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to work with a great quarterback. In addition to Thomas, Manning has other serviceable options abound on the field. Another young receiver, Eric Decker, who was selected in the 2010 draft as well, should put together a productive season as well. The Broncos acquiring former Colt, Jacob Tamme, gives Manning a weapon at tight end that he has already developed a rapport with in Indianapolis. Tamme caught one of Manning’s two touchdowns in week 1, finishing with 43 yards to go with the score. Without a doubt the Falcons defense will find a more difficult test this week against the Broncos offense. While the Chiefs are a deplorable offense in a sense, the Broncos provide a much bigger test.
If you were to just look at the score of the Falcons game last week, one would think it was a cakewalk. But this is a game where there was only 3 points separating one another at halftime. Matt Cassell moved the offense effectively against the Falcons, in the first half at least, putting up 17. If you took a look at the Chiefs this week against the Bills, though, this is not exactly a stellar offense, only totaling 17 points in the entire game. The same Bills defense that got torched for 48 points against clueless Mark Sanchez in week 1. The Broncos offense will undoubtedly look like a Ferrari compared to the Ford Taurus offense of the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
I think the Falcons best chance in this game is to let Matt Ryan fire away. Ryan looked great in a hostile environment in week 1, passing for 299 yards and 3 TDs. Now he will get the chance to be his best in a place he is most comfortable, the Georgia Dome. Ryan is 26-4 at home since entering the league in 2008. The only losses coming to the New Orleans Saints twice, Green Bay Packers, and the same team he will be facing Monday night, the Denver Broncos. Ryan will be armed with two outstanding receivers on both sides, Roddy White and Julio Jones. We all know what White is capable of, but the much younger Jones made people take notice of him in week 1. He finished with 108 yards and 2 TDs, with White garnering plenty of attention, Jones should continue to find success. Not to mention the ageless Tony Gonzalez streaking across the middle. The Broncos defense will certainly be tested in this one. While it feels like the Broncos defense carries the team in 2011, they were actually ranked 20th in terms of total team defense. Against the pass they were 18th, allowing 231 yards per game.
Broncos vs. Falcons Spread and Betting Odds:
Denver Broncos +3 (-110)
@ Atlanta Falcons -3 (-110)
Over 52 (-110)
Under 52 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Broncos vs. Falcons Pick:
This is another one of those lines that may make a lot of people look at it and scratch their heads. Here is a team led by Peyton Manning that just knocked off a good Pittsburgh Steelers team in week 1. The game was showcased for everyone to see on SNF, Manning showed great poise and the ability to get a number of receivers involved against a good Steelers defense. But wait, the Broncos are playing against a quarterback that is 26-4 at home. When you look at it from that perspective, it is easier to get a grip on this line. While most of the nation watched the Broncos dismantle the Steelers, the Falcons showed off some promise themselves.
Manning is going to get his points; the Falcons simply do not have enough talent on defense to keep up. If he did it against a top-5 NFL defense last week, there is no reason to believe he won’t put together better numbers tonight. On the flip side, Matt Ryan does not go down quietly at home, and with the tools he has to work with, I feel like the Falcons will put up some big points as well. While Ryan is going to feel completely comfortable operating at home, I think Manning will feel just as comfortable back in a dome. In week 2 we have played a few overs, sitting at a 2-1 mark, but I think we can up it to 3-1 tonight. Take the over, I like both offenses to play this game back and forth throughout.
PICK = OVER 52